Archaeologists Have Discovered Well Preserved Structures That Date Back To The Time of King Solomon

King Solomon

There are people that believe that the legendary mines of King Solomon were situated amid copper smelting camps found in Israel’s Timna Valley. The barren conditions at Timna have resulted in the amazing preservation of 3,000-year-old organic materials. This has provided Tel Aviv University archaeologists with an exclusive window into the practices and culture of an ancient, but sophisticated society.

Recently, a progressive military fortification, including donkey stables and a well-defined gatehouse complex, was unearthed at Timna. These point to the fact that the community depended significantly on long distance trade and had a highly organized defense system. The fortification dates to the 10th century BCE, at the time when Kings David and Solomon reigned.

One of the leaders of the Timna research, Dr. Erez Ben-Yosef of TAU’s Institute of Archaeology and his excavation team, along with his colleagues Dr. Dafna Langgut and Dr. Lidar Sapir-Hen note that there is no clear description of ‘King Solomon’s mines’ in the Old Testament. There are however a number of references to military conflicts between the Edomites and Israel in the Arava Valley.

According to the Bible, David traveled many miles outside of Jerusalem and participated in military conflict that took place in in the desert, striking down “18,000 Edomites in the Valley of Salt”. Now that evidence of defensive measures, a sophisticated fortification, has been found, the team believes that copper was the reason why David traveled to and waged war in this remote region, hundreds of miles away.

king salomon
The entrance to this complex with a two-room gatehouse surrounded by piles of dung and animal pens. (Image Credit: Erez Ben-Yosef et al.)

Dr. Ben-Yosef explains that copper was a rare product and very difficult to produce in those days. Likening copper in those days to oil today, he is of the view that it was the most coveted commodity and therefore caused many military conflicts. The discovery of the fortification shows a period of military threats and serious instability in the region at that time.

The two-room fortification, located in one of the largest smelting camps in the Timna Valley, is remarkably intact and featured pens for draught animals and other livestock. Evidence of a complex long-distance trade system was also found. Trade probably included the Mediterranean coastal plain, the northern Edomite plateau and Judea. Based on exact seed, pollen and fauna analyses, the researchers believe the livestock was fed with hay and grape pomace. The high quality sustenance was not available in the area and was probably delivered from the Mediterranean region, hundreds of miles away.

Dr. Ben-Yosef also pointed out that it is probable that the gatehouse fortification was a prominent landmark, and believes it had a symbolic or cultic function in addition to its administrative and defensive roles. The gatehouse was built from durable stone to defend against possible invasions. The team found dung piles and animal bones that were so intact they could accurately analyze the food the animals were fed. The food indicates special treatment and care. This would fit in with the key role of donkeys in copper production and trade, especially in a region that was a logistically a challenge.

In 1934, the site was discovered by the American archaeologist Nelson Glueck, who called the copper smelting site “Slaves’ Hill” as he was of the opinion that it had all the marks of an Iron Age slave camp, including a formidable stone barrier that seemed designed to prevent escape, and fiery furnaces.

Dr. Ben-Yosef and colleagues debunked this theory in 2014. They revealed that the clothing and diets of the smelters, which were perfectly preserved by the desert conditions, indicated a sophisticated, hierarchical society instead. Dr. Ben-Yosef notes that although the historical accuracy of the Old Testament accounts could be debated, they can no longer be contradicted by using archaeology.

The new discoveries are in fact in complete agreement with the description of military conflicts against a centralized and hierarchical society based to the south of the Dead Sea. Dr. Ben-Yosef’s team plan to carry on with the exploration of the ancient societies that worked in these remote copper mines. When 21st century research methods, including ancient residue and DNA analyses, is combined with the unique preservation of organic materials in Timna, it has the potential for more significant discoveries in the future.

The Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports published the results of the study.

  • Bret Jones

    Pretty sure that there is no evidence for these historical characters (Solomon and David). Please mislead more.

    • Sage OfOld

      There is PLENTY of historical evidence! The Bible is if not only the best self help manual then the best historical book. Period.

      • No Thanks

        The “Period.” is what convinced me.

        • Sage OfOld

          Is not something that should take convincing. Is something that should cause you to do some of your own honest to God research and not rely on the learning or political agendas of others.

          • No Thanks

            I spent my entire childhood indoctrinated under Christianity. Then I did some of my own honest to god research.

          • Sage OfOld

            I’m sorry you feel that way. About your Christian indoctrination that is… I simply wonder how your own research could so vastly differ from my own…

          • Bret Jones

            Because of confirmation bias. . .unless carefully monitored in each of us, it only attends to information that already confirms things we believe or want to believe. Perhaps god programmed that into us once he kicked us out of the garden and made us imperfect.

          • Sage OfOld

            I’ve not heard of confirmation bias. The way you talk about it it sounds almost like a cross between discernment and cognitive dissonance… A true oxymoron…

          • Bret Jones

            If you are serious about wanting to learn about confirmation bias, the wikipedia entry is pretty solid and has a neutral tone. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confirmation_bias. Lots of other information available, as well. Just takes a search engine. There are also other naturally occurring biases that our brains have on by default. It is all fascinating stuff to me.

    • JAG

      The article actually never claimed they were. Modern biblical studies and biblical archeology is concerned with tracking down the real-life antecendents and personalities that gave rise to the stories. No one is telling you to believe all the stories word for word, but they didn’t just spring up ex nihlio. There is heaps of archeological, literary, and linguistic evidence that leads most biblical historians to believe that biblical stories are, in fact, rooted in some real events and people. Figuring out what the exact details are and separating the truth from embelishments is why this field exists.

    • odgreen1969

      Don’t believe, who cares.

  • Dov Baer

    The Tel Dan stele from the 9th century BCE mentions the House of David, and there are many other references to the Hebrew Kings in inscriptions throughout Israel. You don’t need to believe David killed a giant with a pebble to believe that there was a Kingdom called Israel, and that it had kings.